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Is Web Surfing For Porn At The Public Library Legal?

By Maria Garcia
Published On: May 24 2012 12:13:17 PM CDT
Updated On: May 24 2012 12:18:41 PM CDT
EL PASO, Texas -

Lorena Chavez left the city's public library next to Memorial Park this week feeling very uncomfortable.

While inside she noticed a man looking at a porn site on a computer.

"And it's not like I'm being nosy," Chavez said. "I mean, the guy's back was right in the walkway, so it's visible to anyone who was passing by to see that he was looking at the porn. The kids section is right to the side."

Chavez's concern is that children can go from Dr. Seuss to porn in a matter of a few feet. So Chavez, being discreet, alerted the library employee with a note.

"And she told me that there was nothing they could do, that they can't monitor," Chavez said.

The Supreme Court, in a ruling about the Children's Internet Protection Act, established that filtering computer usage in a public space is unconstitutional. And while libraries must filter internet sessions for minors an adult only has to request the filter be turned off for them without giving a reason.

"I was at a good distance away but a child could have hovered over him and I don't think he would have noticed," Chavez said. "I mean, stick them in a room by themselves, the way they do at the adult videos, if they're going to be allowed to be doing that but out in public."

As for if someone can look at a porn site if they use the computer after someone has used it to look at porn, it is unlikely. The library computers erase pageview histories every hour or five minutes after a user logs off or stops using it.

A library spokesman explained the law to me but refused an interview. He also initially did not want to let ABC-7 inside the library, until asked to provide a statute or ordinance that prohibited ABC-7 from entering a public building. He did not do that and granted ABC-7 access.

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